Let's Talk About: 'War & Peace' -- From the Finale To The Miniseries Overall

"War and Peace” concluded with love, death and two marriages. Before getting there, the final hours found a gravely injured Andrei (James Norton) moved into the path of his ex-flame Natasha (Lily James), the latter of whom would claim a bit of redemption as she cared for the man she’d spurned for a fleeting bout of poor judgment named Anatole. Before succumbing to his injuries, Andrei forgave her and made peace with himself.

As it turns out, his wouldn't be the only death Natasha would suffer. Her father succumbed to what was more than likely a broken heart. With his youngest child killed serving in the military, losing most of his earthly goods and his family’s fate hanging by a thread, the beloved Mr. Rostov (Adrian Edmondson) couldn’t go on. With three of her loved ones dead, Natasha was dramatically sobered from the giddy girl she used to be, forever changed into a more hardened woman.

She would eventually find a fairly earned happy ending with Pierre (Paul Dano), who also suffered during the French invasion when he was taken as a prisoner of war before being ironically set free by Dolokhov (Tom Burke), the former friend/rival he’d maimed in a duel.

His other personal losses included the death of a dear friend he’d made during his capture and the accidental suicide of his vindictive wife, Helene (Tuppence Middleton). Pierre, like Natasha, found the wide-eyed person he used to be tempered. Still an ardent idealist, he discovered contentment in family life, the only world he could have a consistent influence on.

For some of the characters in “War and Peace”, the end of their journey was left less definite. While his sister’s was certain death, Anatole’s (Callum Turner) ultimate fate was far less certain. He was last seen in excruciating shape, clasping hands with a compassionate Andrei following the aftermath of the Battle of Borodino. Whether he survived or not was left up to viewers to decide.

Natasha’s loyal cousin Sonya (Aisling Loftus) sacrificed her happiness for the good of her family and was seen in the future, content but without a mate to share it with. For the irresponsible Nikolai Rostov (Jack Lowden), the finale saw him gaining humility and the love of Andrei’s pious sister Marya (Jessie Buckley). His candor and acknowledgement of his failings as a person, did allow for some redemption for the character.

[Image by BBC]
All in all, it was an emotionally satisfying finale. As a mini-series, “War and Peace” was incredibly watchable and as it progressed it managed to improve upon its rough spots. The casting department did a wonderful job assembling an ensemble that really rose to the occasion, keeping this viewer engaged the entire time.

Hopefully this is only the beginning of more productions of its kind. The BBC does a phenomenal job with its costume dramas and it’s great to see them gaining a wider platform in the US. “War and Peace” didn’t quite reach the standard set by the BBC/Starz venture “The White Queen”, though that might be due to the difference in broadcaster.

“War and Peace” was simulcast on cable networks, whereas “The White Queen” was broadcast on premium cable where there are few (if any) content restrictions. Despite this, “War and Peace” still managed to secure several racy bits throughout its run.

For viewers unfamiliar with the work of revered author Leo Tolstoy, hopefully this will stir a newfound interest. His works have been adapted countless times over the years and 2016’s “War and Peace” earned a respectable spot alongside them on the mantle. It was straightforward, well paced and acted.

Where Joe Wright’s risky and ill-received 2012 adaptation of “Anna Karenina” (another famous Tolstoy work) attempted a bold storytelling technique that endeavored to liven up what was already rather daring on the page, director Tom Harper’s take on “War and Peace” was more trusting of its source material, never pushing for an audacious narrative flourish to excite it.

While it took some getting used to, Wright’s adventurous move wasn't as personally bewildering as it was for others. Oddly enough, "Anna Karenina’s" stage approach wasn’t as difficult to get accustomed to as the choppy cinematography that accompanied “War and Peace."

The use of an anamorphic lens and the over emphasis on bokeh were visual hurdles, it never quite overcame. In contrast, “The White Queen” featured a heavily cinematic approach that's richer appearance was far more visually stimulating.

It was a bravura accomplishment that Tom Harper and screenwriter Andrew Davies were able to distill one of the longest books in history into a 6 hour telling, without completely sacrificing major plot points from its source. Each installment rang with a hurriedness that never felt strained and a malaise that never bored.

There are many important messages weaved throughout Tolstoy's “War and Peace” and one of its main ones were expertly transmitted in this version, the reality of war’s brutality and the fragile peace that encompasses the home front in its wake. When it came to portraying that crucial takeaway, Tom Harper's presentation of “War and Peace” drove the point home with poignant clarity.

[Featured Image by BBC]

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